Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

This movie was spectacularly creepy. First, it opens on the narrator's death scene, so you know it can't bode well for him. Sometimes throughout the movie, I thought, "I wonder if he's going to die now, but probably not, not until the end of the movie."  I was upset by the lack of blood. He was shot at three times. There was no blood on his clothes, and no blood in the water when he fell in. I'm missing the blood here.

This is Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson, a former silent movie actress.  I like how they got someone who actually starred in silent films to play a silent film star. This kind of makes her an expert on the whole thing.  At times, Norma is manipulative and over-dramatic, but mostly I feel sorry for her. She is trying so hard to hold onto her past as a well-loved star.  When the technology of film changed, she was left behind. She never moved to talking pictures and faded into obscurity. She still believes that she's well-loved and famous, and it doesn't help that Max, her butler, is feeding her delusion. He even writes her fake fan mail so she has someone to write to. Her story reminds me of the beginning of "Sorrow" by Pink Floyd:

He's haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
In his youth or a dream, he can't be precise
He's chained forever to a world that's departed
It's not enough, It's not enough

Let's talk about Joe, the broke screenwriter. He sneaks his car onto her property to hide it from the repo men. It is fate that he met her and decided to help edit her crazy long silent film about Salome.  In no time at all Norma becomes his sugar momma and he gets all sorts of nice clothes and trinkets. It helps that he is really good looking.  She throws a New Year's Party for just the two of them complete with cake and musicians, and it is incredibly creepy.  Eventually he decides to leave and have a normal life as a screenwriter once more.  Staying with her for the money was nice for the time being, but he doesn't love her.  Also she is crazy.

There are several meta moments in this movie.  For example, Joe and Norma watch her old films in the living room.  They are actually watching Gloria Swanson's silent films.  So we are watching Norma's films with Norma really in it while we watch Norma watching the films.  In another scene, Betty is criticizing Joe's writing, saying he doesn't need all this psychological stuff about being in the killer's mind.  Joe likes that kind of stuff.  However, we know that Norma has severe psychological issues and will eventually kill him.  So meta I can barely handle it.

Then Norma completely loses her mind when Joe tries to leave for good.  That's when she finally kills him. So the police and reporters show up, and for the first time in years, she sees cameras focused on her.  She dresses in her Salome costume and goes downstairs to greet the cameras.  The police encourage her as they want her to go downstairs so they can arrest her and take her to jail.  But all Norma cares about is all the attention she's getting and smiling for the cameras.  This is all she's ever wanted, and she finally got it.  I'm giving this movie a 10/10 for being one of the best films I've seen all year.


  1. This is a great one--I try to watch it at least once a year. It never gets old no matter how much I know what's coming.

    1. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I might make my husband watch it with me to see what he thinks.